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Lilly and Sophie Reale provide support to each other as sisters, teammates

Junior defender Lilly Reale lifts up her sister, freshman forward Sophie, in a hug. The Boston-born sisters never had the opportunity to play together on their high school team but are now both on UCLA women’s soccer. (Illustration by Kelly Gee/Daily Bruin. Photo by Julia Zhou/Photo editor.)

By Ava Abrishamchian

June 10, 2024 4:23 p.m.

Lilly and Sophie Reale grew up in the same house, attended the same school and played the same sport.

But it wasn’t until they were both adults that they could finally share the field.

“We want to support them as much as we can,” said Melissa Reale – mother of Lilly and Sophie. “It’s as convenient as it can be for two girls across the country.”

Melissa routinely travels nearly 3,000 miles from Boston to Los Angeles to watch UCLA women’s soccer’s junior defender Lilly Reale and freshman forward Sophie Reale – sisters turned teammates – compete in the same stadium.

“I see her (Sophie) every day, even if we don’t play soccer. They’re over (at) my apartment a lot,” Lilly said.

Born one year apart, the pair played an array of sports growing up – from gymnastics to basketball.

But narrowing it down posed no trouble.

“They both honed in on soccer together, and we were in a club that was really family-oriented, so we had our best friends (who) are from club soccer,” Melissa said. “It was gradually and organically just the road they took.”

Lilly became an All-American in high school – and two years later, Sophie followed suit. But the COVID-19 pandemic’s implications prevented a season where the duo would have shared the field during Sophie’s freshman year of high school and Lilly’s junior year.

“We really started to tolerate each other because we were forced to be in everything together,” Sophie said. “We were playing soccer together every day, and we were with each other every second.”

(Julia Zhou/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Although Lilly and Sophie missed their chance to play together in their high school stadium, their paths would converge once again – the two were committed to the same college to pursue Division I soccer.

Lilly and Sophie committed to Boston College when they were each in eighth grade. The prospect appeared enticing at first – they would both only be about 30 miles from home.

But it wouldn’t be their calling.

“I was committed to (Boston College) at first, just because it was close to home. I thought that’s what I wanted,” Lilly said.

With a commitment under her belt, Lilly joined the 2017 Under-20 United States Women’s National Team and began training with the U.S. National Youth Camp. Traveling around the world opened up her horizons.

“When I started to go to national team camps a little bit more consistently, I realized I wanted a different program and to try something out that’s a little bit newer, and a little bit more well known in the soccer world,” Lilly said.

After Boston College’s head coach – Alison Foley – resigned in December 2018, Lilly rethought her collegiate soccer plans.

When UCLA offered her an official visit, Lilly took the chance to see other options at the DI level. On their first trip to California, Lilly, Sophie and Melissa took a tour of Westwood and the campus.

“She liked it more than I did when we first visited,” Lilly said, pointing at her sister. “I was like, I don’t know if I can move out here.'”

But after further consideration – and a side-by-side comparison of the two programs – Lilly’s path was crystal clear. She verbally committed to UCLA in August 2020.

One year later, Lilly hit the ground running upon her landing in Westwood. In her first season, she ranked second in all-time playing time and was named an All-Pac-12 honoree and to Top Drawer Soccer’s Freshman Best XI first team.

UCLA won the national championship in Lilly’s sophomore campaign, but her junior season held greater importance – Sophie’s arrival. The two would take the field side by side for the first time since playing club soccer together approximately six years ago.

Despite her eighth grade commitment to stay in Massachusetts, Sophie had her sights set on UCLA after joining Lilly on her tour of Westwood.

(Courtesy of Jesus Ramirez/UCLA Athletics)

“I wasn’t really planning on going to the same school. It just kind of happened that it worked out,” Sophie said. “This is one of the biggest soccer schools in the country, and I think it was so cool to come out to California, … and it’s just a lot different from back home.”

The younger Reale sister decided to redshirt her first year. Watching her older sister from the sidelines this past season, Sophie spent her rookie campaign absorbing all the action at Wallis Annenberg Stadium and set herself up for the upcoming year – as UCLA enters Big Ten contention.

“She’s such a great role model, I mean, she’s captain of our team,” Sophie said. “But I think it’s also another thing where I have to make a name for myself and can’t really rely on her for everything.”

Despite being in different grades, Lilly and Sophie have leveraged being on the same college campus by strengthening both their relationship and their team’s camaraderie. Now on the same team, their friend groups have merged — creating a greater community than they imagined.

(Courtesy of Don Liebig/UCLA Photography)

“It’s just also nice because since she’s a freshman, I get really close with her class too,” Lilly said. “It just makes us all a little bit more appreciative of each other.”

Shared experiences bonded the pair closer than they have ever been. Mutual hobbies, like baking and hot yoga, molded a way for the pair to cultivate a sturdy affinity on and off the field.

Lilly and Sophie’s impenetrable bond leaves minimal room for destruction – even with the former’s departure in December.

“Lilly wants to go into the draft, … so they’ll only be together a year and a half,” Melissa said. “One day, they could end up being back at the same team.”

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Ava Abrishamchian
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